Outpost by Ann Aguirre

Lately this is very unusual for me to say about the second book in a trilogy, but–I liked this one better than the first! It was so good! I finished it mere moments ago and am trying to be better about getting my posts up while I still I remember a book. [Spoilers for book 1 are about to happen, so don’t keep reading if you haven’t read the first.]  Book two opens up a few months after the end of book 1.  Deuce, Fade, Stalker, and Tegan have settled in to the village of Salvation.  Not exactly settled, as Deuce definitely feels like she doesn’t belong.  But she is safe and cared for and as time goes by learns about and experiences familial love.  That was such an interesting aspect of this installment-having been raised underground in an entirely different culture Deuce knows nothing about gender differences, school, families, belongings, or customs.  Salvation, to the reader, seems like an old fashioned village, so while it’s old-fashioned, it’s still familiar to us.  Deuce lives with a couple who are kind and caring and for the first time ever Deuce understands motherly love.  She also bonds with the elderly man who had originally rescued her-Longshot.  There’s a bit of a love triangle between Deuce, Fade, and Stalker and while that wasn’t the most interesting aspect of the story to me, it was solid.

The action takes place over a summer where the Freaks are attacking more often and Fade, Deuce, and Stalker are part of a summer patrol setting up an outpost to protect crops and fend off the Freaks.  As she had observed at the end of the first book, the Freaks appear to be gaining intelligence.  They are still clawed and fanged monsters who devour people, but they seem to be learning strategy and skill.  This makes them absolutely terrifying.

One thing I really liked especially about this book was the structure of it and how it will nestle into a trilogy.  Unlike some other boring book 2s of trilogies, though, I didn’t feel like we just needed to trudge through some action to get to the setup of book 3.  This was some solid building of characters, good stand alone story, and good referencing to the first book.  At the end the main characters are ready for a new dramatic step that hearkens back to the beginning of book 1.  I also liked the author’s note at the end pointing out that “readers have surely figured out by now that they are mutants, not zombies.” (that’s a half-assed quote-I’m not fetching the book to look it up, but that was the essence.)

I can’t imagine how there’s a good ending for humanity, so I can’t wait to see what happens in book 3. I’m going to predict that Fade or Stalker will die in a dramatic emotional moment near the end. I hope that doesn’t happen, but I can see Aguirre being like Joss Whedon-not afraid to kill off a major character for emotional investment and adding to the overall story (that’s a compliment-I love that about Whedon.)

One thing I don’t get-the series is being called “Razorland”, which doesn’t make sense. At least not yet. So there’s that to wonder about.

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